Monday, September 17, 2012

An Unexpected Trip, Pudge and Some Bush

I dislike missing the Cardboard Connection Radio show. I don't make a ton of money from it, but I do love it. I set up Wednesday's show to be a forum, a soapbox if you will for us and YOU to voice your opinions about the recent allegations regarding phony memorabilia in trading cards. I chose to do an entire 90 minute show about it because it is important. Don't let the book fool you. It is time to sound the alarms. It is time to show some damn responsibility to their customers. It is time to fess up and let collectors worldwide know exactly what was tainted.

As a consumer and a reporter, I have lost faith. This is something that CANNOT be ignored. It will not just go away. I won't let it, our show won't let it, and clearly the Cardboard Nation of listeners will not either. To say I am highly disappointed in the companies for not responding to this confession would be an understatement. We used to social media to promote the fact that we'd have an open forum for anyone to discuss the topic. Collectors responded, corporate did not.

Have a listen: Cardboard Connection Radio - JerseyGate Edition

Unfortunately, I also could not respond. That morning I got news that changed the entire course of my week. I am currently married to the most amazing woman I have ever met. She's my rock. She makes me a better person and she's the idol of millions. She's Jill Cataldo -- the Super-Coupon Queen. As much as I love Jill, she wasn't the first person I married. On this day I got the news that my ex-wife had suffered a massive heart attack and brain aneurysm. Her condition is critical.

I have not seen her for almost nine years. I probably wouldn't have seen her again if she didn't give me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Together we have a daughter, and I took her to see her mom, possibly for the last time. She also hasn't seen her in nearly nine years. It was a bittersweet trip. We spent a lot of time at the hospital wondering why this happened, how this happened and why it took a traumatic experience to put aside bad feelings to get us all in the same room. Life is too short. I don't want drama, grief or nonsense getting in my way of living it.

This trip unfortunately had all of the above. The good part was that my daughter has a half-sister out there and they reunited too. It turns out she's an aunt and it was actually great to meet and spend time with her family. There were a lot of tears, a lot of hugs and a lot of worry.

As we rode the plane out there, I asked my daughter to make a list of things she wanted to do and places she wanted to visit while we were in Las Vegas. Most of her pit stops included food that we loved while we lived there that you just can't find in Chicago. When we got off the plane, she wanted a steak. I could understand that since it was 1 a.m. and we skipped dinner. When you are going through this kind of drama, it's always good to be surrounded by loved ones. I had remembered that my two aunts take a yearly trip to Vegas, and wouldn't you know it, they were out there when we arrived. We met up at Bally's and walked over to Bill's Gambling Hall (formerly the Barbary Coast) for their $6.99 late night Steak & Eggs dinner/breakfast. I figured it would be a good idea for her to relax before seeing her mother. Seeing my aunts definitely fit the bill and we were able to decompress.

After a couple hours of sleep, we headed out to the hospital. It was not good. It was very strange to see someone that you knew as a fighter become helpless. I can only imagine what it was like for my daughter. Luckily we have a good enough relationship that she talks to me -- a rarity from what I hear from my friends about their teenagers. There were tears, and plenty of them. We stayed for several hours reconnecting with a few family members, but eventually we had to leave. Again, food dictated our direction and we went to a great Dim Sum restaurant called East Ocean. After refueling, we decided to drive around and check out our old house, her old school, and visit a new friend.

If you've hung around this long, you've gotta be saying what in the heck does this have to do with trading cards? Well, occasionally I have a life outside of the trading card world; however this story does work its way back to them and collecting in general. The stop I wanted to make was to visit Jeremy Brown, owner of Ultimate Sports Cards and Memorabilia. We met Jeremy at the Industry Summit earlier this year and had him as a guest on the Cardboard Connection Radio show. I had wanted to visit his shop back then, but we ran out of time, so I made it a point to drop in. I am glad I did. I met one of his co-workers, and we all spoke for awhile, discussing the latest products, his upcoming Pawn Stars appearances, and the fact that his shop is moving soon. I look forward to having him back on the show. 

Usually I try to find an autographed card of the guests that appear on the show, Jeremy doesn't have one yet, so I opted to buy something at the store as a memento. I chose a pretty sweet card if you ask me; what do you think?

It is a 2006 Upper Deck Exquisite Endorsements autograph of Carlton Fisk. It's a beauty of a card, its only flaw is that it is a sticker auto. I don't think stickers should be used in a product with a price tag like Exquisite. Oh, it has another flaw, but that one I can live with... after all it IS Carlton Fisk -- he's in a Red Sox uniform. Only because I do not have his autograph in my collection, did I snag it.  As a White Sox fan, I thought that was a little deplorable I didn't have one, so I added it. 

After visiting the shop, we stopped in at Villa Pizza on Durango, a great NY Style pizza place that we always loved when we lived there. I love the food, but really love the cool mural of NYC painted on the wall by Frank Rao.A couple of slices and a couple of Zeppole later and we were ready for bed.

The next day we returned to the hospital for several more hours. On the way, we dropped into an old favorite called Harrie's Bagelmania. It's on Twain, and it used to be a decent area. Now this classic Jewish establishment is smack in the middle of what resembles scenes from movie Escape from New York. It made me sad immediately and I was worried if it was even still open. Luckily it was, the little plaza it is in was like I remembered. Driving through the area reminded me of another movie -- National Lampoon's Vacation. All I could think of was Clark Griswold saying, "Roll em up"! It was another difficult day, but we got through it. I'd like to think that little things help to ease the pain; in this case it was a not-so-little Black & White cookie that got us off to a good start. After many hours at the hospital and a few more reunions with family, we needed some down time. Yeah right, there was no down time. 

To take off some of the sting, we decided to make a couple of stops. The first one was to Count's Kustoms just off Highland Drive. Danny "The Count" Koker is one of the coolest cats on TV. Another guy that was showcased on Pawn Stars, he and his crew now have their own show on the History Channel called Counting Cars. It is just awesome. You see as much as I love cards, I also love cars. There's nothing like getting behind the wheel and seeing what a sweet machine can do. My first job was as a valet parking attendant, and I got to drive everything imaginable. I have always had a soft spot for the late 80s Camaro, but can appreciate just about vehicle from Chevy, except maybe the Volt. Of course I love foreign cars and odd customs too. Danny and his boys make em better than anyone, bikes too!

We got a tour of the shop from Rollie and also met Horny Mike and a couple of the other guys. Danny has several of his personal collection on display and it was amazing seeing them up close. Hot Wheels collectors will appreciate this shot...

My daughter is also a fan of Pawn Stars and wanted to visit the Gold & Silver shop in person after seeing my photos from my previous trip. I obliged and we headed back to the strip to check it out. They just finished filming and the place was packed. It didn't last long though as they emptied the store for another segment. We picked up a couple souvenirs and made our way to the airport. 

Our last stop before heading home was a sub shop called Capriotti's. This place is iconic to Vegas and Delaware residents. It's a small chain, that's expanded to Wisconsin, Maryland, Florida, Iowa and California, and they have the greatest sandwich you've never tried. It's called the Bobbie, it's a Thanksgiving dinner on a sandwich. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo, it is both exquisite and divine and I just found out there's one in Milwaukee, an hour away! I'll be right back.

I didn't get home until 2 am on Saturday morning. It was a long, but necessary trip with low-lights and highlights. I was craving a little rest and relaxation after the flight. When I got home, though, another addition to the collectors was waiting for me. I unwrapped the package and low and behold, I scored a little Bush! It's the only on-card autographed trading card featuring a United States President and it comes from the 2011 Topps Allen & Ginter set. It is a great looking signature on the small mini card and just an awesome collectible.



  1. Hey! I pulled that Bush card last year and it helped buy me this laptop. Sweet pick-ups!